In one of those seemingly random convergences of synergies, the current issues of both Lilith and the online Jewish women’s mag 614 feature articles on JDate. In different ways, the publications explore the huge impact it and other Jewish e-dating sites have had on how the Jewish world hooks up.
Before I go any further, I have to admit I’ve never been on JDate. And, after reading this month’s Lilith cover article, boy am I glad. As Susan Schnur writes it, it’s not pretty out there. On the other hand, several of the people closest to me have met their significant others on JDate and are in very committed and happy relationships, so I can’t help but think it’s for the good. So the underlying question is, as always — Is JDate good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?
The answer is, undoubtedly, good for some and bad for others. Another way to put the question, more practically — and bluntly: are more or fewer Jewish babies being born because of Jewish e-dating? Surely the world will never know. But let’s take some guesses, just for fun.
Perhaps it’s fewer, because you can’t make babies over the internet. (Reproductive technology is not that advanced … yet). As Schnur suggests in Lilith, people are spending more time fussing around the internet, hemming and hawing and being nitpicky over potential partners, instead of just choosing someone and hopping into marriage and babies. The plethora of dating options that the worldwide web provides causes some daters to hedge their bets and take more time to explore the entire field, until they find that elusive Mr. or Ms. Right. Or don’t. In the meantime, precious eggs are going to waste.
But that’s not just a Jewish problem. JDate doesn’t exist in a Jewish vacuum. The whole world is e-dating. It’s not a choice between JDate or internet-less dating, but between JDate or Match.com (or e-Harmony.com or one of the numerous other dating sites serving the general population). So in the world of internet dating the mere existence of JDate and its ilk is a definite boon for the Jews, a haven from the wider world of e-dating, where, if one is not vigilant, one is as likely as an unsuspecting college co-ed to haplessly fall for a non-Jew (shudder).
And it would stand to reason that people who meet on JDate are likely, when they do procreate, to raise their children at least nominally Jewish. Why bother signing up to meet other Jews as potential mates if you don’t want to identify as Jewish?
In fact, a couple of the articles in 614 made me realize the potential that JDate has as a unifier of the Jewish people — across denominations, affiliations, levels of observance and commitment. Michelle Cove recalls how the process of filling out her JDate profile made her reevaluate her religious status and consider how far to the right or left she would be willing to go for a potential partner, while Marnie Alexis Friedman writes about her experiences dating men of different observance levels and denominational affiliations from herself. Implicit in both of these pieces is the idea that JDate supplies individual Jews with easy access to meeting Jews who are different from themselves. Though individuals might, the website doesn’t discriminate based on affiliation or practice. It’s one of the few forums in which Jews are Jews, and that’s that.
It’s come to the point where, no matter how irreligious or unaffiliated a person is, just joining JDate — an expression of desire to meet someone Jewish — is itself an act of religious devotion. So, next time you’re feeling frustrated with JDating, just think of that monthly subscription fee as a ritual e-sacrifice on the e-altar of love.
–Rebecca Honig Friedman